The Search For Skilled Manufacturing Employee Candidates

Skills Drop Off

Skills Drop Off (Photo credit: squacco)

A common refrain I often hear, and read about, is the lack of a quality pool of technically skilled employees to draw from when it comes time for hiring.  Take a look at any manufacturing news site out there and you’re bound to see it yourself: skills gap, lack of training, unprepared candidates, etc.  Heck, jump to some of the better CNC machine forums and read first hand attempts at hiring that sound more like some demented David Lynch scene than a run-in with an unqualified applicant.  Joking aside, it’s a real concern for not only the larger manufacturing behemoths but also the smaller independent shop looking to expand and fill needed roles.

When it comes time to hire we all hope to land a great applicant, one not only with technical skills and experience, but the wherewithal and common sense to do the job right.  As many of you can attest there are a lot of us grey beards in the shop these days.  Not to say that is a bad thing at all: we come with years of knowledge, know-how, and experience.  But we understand that keeping our trade healthy and alive means bringing in the younger generation of able bodied men and women.  So where are they, how do we go about drawing them in, and how do we ensure they’ve had the proper fundamentals and training to ensure a successful and productive path?

Manufacturing Training Programs

I’d be a liar if I said I had an answer to this tricky bit of business.  I started out on a used CNC machine, being mentored from the ground up; pushing the broom, measuring parts, doing set-ups, change overs, CNC repairs…well before I was ever let loose on a “real” job.  While we’d all love to be able to mentor a new hire (and some of us still do) it’s often not practical.  The costs, the time, ,and the propensity for the situation to simply not work out.  Seems the nature of our business is that by the time we need to hire someone, we need to do it yesterday, so we’re in need of someone with skills and experience that can quickly get up to speed.

I’d like to share a couple of articles I came across today on this subject.

This article from The Modern Machine Shop gives us a bit of flashback to the manufacturing climate in the 1990’s and 2000.  It illustrates how the outsourcing of manufacturing,  the lack of manufacturing investment in supplemental training for employees, and the push for non-manufacturing college degrees culminated in the decimation of new manufacturing talent.

There is a bright side to the article.  It lay out the pro-active moves between a number of industry’s and a local college to reinvigorate the training and acquisition of new manufacturing talent.  It’s motivating to read about a program that not only helps fortify the industry I know and love, but to know that it’s some real training here: no light-weight diy cnc hobby here.  These trainees put in the work.  Read for yourself.

The Modern Machine Shop: Not Just a CNC Degree

Want to continue with that good feeling?

This article from Forbes ( “CEO Takes Action On Manufacturing Skills Gap” ) touches upon many of the same issues and takes some of the same sorts of approaches.  Using Germany’s apprenticeship system as a model, CEO Tom Hudson of nth/works used his own team and resources to create an apprenticeship program that gives high school students hands on technical training and know-how.

From the article:

…providing them with hands-on, paid training in five areas of manufacturing: welding and automation; tool and die making; tooling design; CNC machining; and kaizen, a Japanese manufacturing philosophy devoted to continuous improvement.

These students spend two and a half months working in each specification and upon completion can pursue secondary training, begin looking for work, or become a part of the program.

Motivating to read indeed.  I recommend checking it out.

Your Turn

While I don’t have the solution to our manufacturing woes and talent shortages, I do believe programs like the ones outlined above go a long way toward instilling the fundamentals of our industry in qualified applicants.  In many ways I believe programs like the above not only cut the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, but incentivize younger people toward manufacturing.  Just read Jocelyn Salinas quote at the end of the Forbes article where she talks about creating  air block cylinders if you don’t believe me.  But what about you?  Do you believe programs such as these can help alleviate the poor quality of candidates many of us encounter?

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The Internets: DIY CNC Machine Resources & More

A CNC Turning Center in the FAME Lab in the Le...

A CNC Turning Center in the FAME Lab in the Leonhard Building at Penn State. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to CNC machine resources there is nothing better than having the internet at your fingertips.  Whether you’re into DIY CNC, looking for used CNC machines and replacement parts, sharpening your g-code skills, or pondering the pursuit of a CNC hobby, you’ll find a wealth of valuable information.

If you’ve been following me for some time you know that there are a number of sites and locations I’ll periodically tout.  The Practical Machinist immediately comes to mind as a wonderful forum and valuable CNC machine resource for the machinist/operator and CNC hobbyist alike.  Another blog that I frequent, and which I’ve linked in the sidebar some time ago  is the CNC Cookbook blog.

The CNC Cookbook blog  posts are interesting, in-depth, and accessible to all CNC machine enthusiasts.  Bob Warfield covers a variety of topics from cookbooks on using his G-Wizard G-Code editor to advancements in 3-d printing.  With 20,000 and counting members you know you can’t go wrong by dropping in for a visit.

DIY CNC Machine Resources

Which brings me to mentioning a recent post/cookbook Mr. Warfield put together over at CNC Cookbook:

DIY CNC Cookbook: In-Depth Articles on Building CNC Machines, CNC Routers, and 3D Printers

This is the kind of resource you are going to want to take a look at especially if you are considering going the DIY CNC route and building your own.  Mr. Warfield has put together an in-depth cookbook covering all the angles.

G-Code Tutorials

Since I’m touting the expertise over at the CNC Cookbook I thought I’d mention they’ve also cooked up an extensive G-code tutorial and course.

As the man say’s, every machinist should know g-code, and that means you as well.  Jump on over and see what I’m shouting about!

CNC Cookbook: G-code Tutorial and Course

Your Turn

What about you?  Know of a great CNC machine related blog or resource and would like to share?  A favorite CNC internet stomping ground?  Let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to share!

CNC Machine Training

If you’re like me, you’ve often taken some of your free time pandering around the internet for CNC machine related topics and information.  Maybe you own your own shop and are searching for CNC replacement parts or used CNC machines?  Maybe you’re looking for a quick tip on some g code, or even some help on a troublesome alarm?  No matter what it is you are looking for, if you start Google-ing around you’ll eventually encounter links for CNC crash videos.

About once a week I’ll find myself watching a CNC crash video while getting the sleep out of my eyes and slurping down a couple cups of coffee.  These video’s make it easy for one to sit behind their screen, laugh and shake their head, and mumble to themselves about all the morons in the world.  I’m guilty of it myself.  But I’ve been thinking about these video’s a little different lately.

CNC Crash Video’s: What Are They Really Showing Us?

We’ve all had our bad days, am I right?  Made some rookie mistake and cost ourselves, or the company we work for, time and money.  Replacement parts add up fast, and while it’s a fact of life that things are going to break from time to time, it always hurts when it’s the outcome of a preventable mistake.   

So, when you see one of these crash video’s, do you see yourself at some distant point in the past?  If not, count yourself lucky.  

What I’ve started thinking when watch these crash videos is the importance of training.  Yeah, like we all need another CNC Machine and safety training meeting, right?

Yes, we do.

The Importance of CNC Machine Training

Periodic training sessions carry a number of positives.  First and foremost it puts information at the forefront of our minds.  Yes, a session may cover a topic most of the shop already knows, but it may just brush the dust off of it as well.  We carry a lot of knowledge in our heads, and it’s often that some of that is used only on rare occasions.  Nothing wrong with brushing it up, giving it a nice new mental veneer.  It’s simple refreshment that can often save yourself time and money.  It’s easy to forget the small things…and often that is where refreshment training saves us time and money.

Also, sessions like these often lead to related topics and discussion that open the door for the whole shop to learn and benefit.  

 

Let us not forget the newbies  in our shops.  No matter how industrious and sharp and driven, he/she is going to make some blunders.  Hopefully of the less expensive kind.  Added training and mentorship is where my thinking lay when it comes to the young-in’s in our industry.  By taking the time (and yes, short-tern expense) to aid and mentor them in their learning, we all benefit.  Not only do we save ourselves money in the long term, we help craft better CNC machinists and operators.  

That benefits everyone in the CNC manufacturing industry.

Whether you’re clocking hours in a Haas CNC machine shop or a DIY CNC enthusiast experimenting in your garage, periodic training and discussion pay’s dividends in the long-term.  

Your Turn:

Do you believe that periodic training sessions, say, once per month, are a benefit to your shop?  Let me know in the comments!